There, I said it.
In the past 1 1/2 years that I have been sharing this blog with the great-wide-world beyond my family and friends, I have hesitated to to share this.
Why would I hesitate? Because the internet is a big, ugly place where people namelessly love to tear other’s words to shreds. Behind a mask of anonymity, people love to tell others that they think they are doing things wrong, and why their way is the better way. For me, I’ve wondered if it’s easier if I try to stay neutral in my writing—to not explain principles that help determine how I act and what I do?
Don’t get me wrong. My hesitation to share this with you is not because of a glimmer of doubt in my faithful membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have been a member all of my life, but not out of a blind sheep-like obedience to something that was force-fed to me as a child. My parents raised independent, rational thinkers, and they have always encouraged and supported their children in our personal paths to understanding and faith. As I grew into adulthood and questioned my own understanding of life and its meaning, my faith in a doctrine focused on Jesus Christ has solidified itself as a permanent fixture in my life.
But what does this have to do with traveling?
You see, my faith as a Christian affects my every day life. It affects my choices, my interaction with others, my goals, my desires, and my understanding and processing of experiences in general.
In addition, my faith as a conservative Christian determines my lifestyle as a traveler, and let’s face it…conservative Christian travelers are somewhat a rarity.
The world is full of travel blogs of single people who are boozing or sleeping their way around the world. Even a typical family travel blog will often talk about going out at night for drinks, going to some late parties when a babysitter is available, and perhaps it will even criticize faith of various varieties. They rarely reference faith, church, and related choices that are a part of my daily reality.
As a Mormon I am guided by a set of values and conservative moral principles that are an outward reflection of my faith. You will not find me talking about coffee, alcohol, or where to party all night with children in tow. However, you will find me blogging about the struggles of locating a church building on our travels, or the kind generosity of strangers who become friends due to mutual faith.
So, while a vegetarian travel blogger may fittingly focus their writing on food, or a single parent may write about their struggles or triumphs of parenting while traveling with their children—I feel it is only fair to honestly write about my daily life, and the reality in which I live. After all, it is this background that colors my experiences. And hopefully we can inspire or motivate other Mormon Explorers who have considered taking off on a worldwide adventure, and show them that the world is a big beautiful place with open arms that are ready to receive them.
In fact, I feel Mormons have quite an advantage when traveling the world! As a member of the LDS church, we can travel almost anywhere in the world and find a tight network of local members of our church who we can turn to for friendship or help.
Have you ever visited a place that is “foreign” to you (even if it is just another US state), but you’ve had family or friends nearby who have been there as a resource to answer questions, guide you around, and welcome you into their homes? How comforting has that been to have someone to turn to in an emergency? It makes a world of a difference to be locally connected to a place that is foreign to you!
Each Sunday we seek out a local congregation of our church, wherever we may be. Over the last year we’ve attended church in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Germany, Austria, Spain, Vietnam and Thailand. While the meeting conditions have all been varied (small multilingual groups meeting in buildings located directly on a beach, large church building with 200 members, or a dozen faithful members meeting in a hotel conference room), the doctrine taught is the same.
The LDS Church is organized in such a way that the same lessons are being taught throughout the world, which means that there is a familiarity and consistency wherever we go. Oftentimes, we are blessed to learn that someone in the congregation speaks English and they offer to translate the services and Sunday School classes for us. However, if that bonus is not available, we can pull out our Kindle and iPad and read the same lesson in English, while it is being spoken in German, Thai, or Vietnamese. The delight of being with others in a celebration of Faith overcomes all language and cultural barriers. What a joy and comfort that familiarity is in our lives of rapid travel and ever-changing scenery!
So, while some people fear that traveling will shake or diminish their Faith, I couldn’t agree less. The more I see of the world, the more it fits together as one giant puzzle piece. The more I learn about other religions, cultures, and people, the more I understand how God’s love extends to all people. We are all children of God, and we have been given an incomprehensibly beautiful world to explore, discover, and appreciate. I believe all things testify of His love for us, and I am grateful for the opportunity to see and experience so many of the gifts we’ve been given in our earthly life.
Take it or leave it, but this is my reality. I open the comments only to positive feedback. If you are one of those people who would prefer to try to belittle those with different beliefs and faith than you, then I encourage you to read my post, Do I Offend You, and take your disrespect elsewhere. I respect your right to different choices, and I ask that you respect mine.
The internet doesn’t have to be a big, ugly place where people criticize and tear each other down. In fact, the internet has the ability to be a big, beautiful place where people can love, encourage, and support one another. That is Christ-like love.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue to secretly (or not-so-secretly, now) hope that I’ll bump into many more Mormon Explorers in our travels!